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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


A Hard Weeks Angling

I've probably had my toughest weeks angling for many years; in fact it was probably my toughest weekly session to date for fish caught. The weather was very unsettled snow, frost and rain. The wind was forever changing direction, as was the pressure from low to high then back to low. Water temperatures were good, it started off at 44 degrees F and two days later I got a reading of 46 then 48 then back to 44 degrees F. Thinking my thermometer was giving an incorrect reading I went off to Tadley Angling and checked my thermometer against a couple in the shop. There wasn’t a problem.
The River Kennet had a good flow, in many places it was over the bank. In fact the number of fishable swims had been drastically cut through flood water. Lancashire angler David Hurst and I arrived on Saturday afternoon full of expectations, on arrival I checked the water temperature getting a reading of 44 degrees F. Apart from fishing the River Kennet I was going to take David on the Hampshire Avon, a river he has wanted to fish for many years. Hopefully he would catch on both venues. I feel when you have a guest; you should make every effort for that person to have a good experience. Though I do say “I can’t put the fish on the hook”

Mike O'Neill's 60th Birthday Party

David and I didn't fish the first evening; we had been invited to a 60th birthday party at Henley on Thames, arriving around 8 o'clock to find the venue buzzing. I quickly spotted some old friends Tony and Fran Miles, Trevor and Kath West along with Simon and Tini of Pallatrax, within minutes we were offered drinks, I declined but David soon had a drink in his hand. Though David and I didn't know many of the guests we were made most welcomed, my eyes were soon drawn to a very attractive lady in a red dress who could have graced the front cover of Vogue magazine. The service, food wine and company were excellent. It was a happy Martin who left the party around midnight.

We targeted the Chub

The next Sunday David and I were on the banks of the River Kennet, there wasn't another angler on the 2 miles of river we walked or waded, the river belonged to us. We had the choice of swims, though many of the swims I would like to have fished were out of bounds due to flood water. We chose three interesting looking swims which were baited with a few bait size bits of cheese or bread flake baits. Our tackle set up was quite simple, soft Avon action 12 foot rods with fixed spool reels, David chose to fish nylon line right through; I had braid to which I attached five feet of 6lb fluorocarbon. We both used size 4 Pallatrax barbless hooks which have never let me down. I also explained to David the reason why I chose to use LG shot rather than a bit of lead and the advantages. Having set up our gear, we went off for a walk so I could show David some other swims where a chub might be hanging out. As we found a likely chub holding area I would introduce a couple of bait size bits of bread or cheese paste. An hour later we are back in our first choice swim, before we started fishing I said to David “You take the first rod that shows an indication of a bite” he baited with a chunk of crust, I chose to fish a large piece of soft cheese paste. With in a minute of us casting out, my rod top was savagely pulled round. David grabs that rod. As he played the fish, I picked up the net pushing it in the water. Soon a nice chub was netted; I estimated the fish about 4lbs with a solid gut in fact I was surprised it wanted another item of food. I must say at this juncture the landing net I was using is made by the Lone Angler Company; I reckon it’s the best I’ve used in nearly seventy years. The locking system is so easy; you just lift or press down a small leaver. It’s that simple. Over the years I have used many different types of handles, none better this handle. How many times have you had a handle fail? Going by the number of times I see anglers in their local tackle shop complaining the handle doesn't lock or unlock, it’s not a rare occurrence. I reckon this new handle will prove very popular and should you break the clip you can get a replacement.(see under pictures)

Missed Bites

Within minutes of casting out another piece of cheese paste, my rod top was strongly pulled round, I was slow off the mark, and the bite was missed. In the next few hours I had a succession of bites on crust cheese and sausage paste, but they didn’t develop. I would get two or three fast taps but nothing more. Holding the rod I would feel the first pluck, on pushing the rod forward giving a bow in the line. Nothing happened. After a few minutes with no more interest I would carefully bring in the bait to see a perfect imprint of the chubs lips on the paste baits where a small bit of paste had been taken. Small baits didn’t make a difference except I didn’t get any bites. David changed baits starting with crust, to cheese paste then sausage paste, nothing worked. About 7 o’clock in the evening we gave up the struggle and went off for dinner.
One Bite one Barbel

After visiting Tadley angling for a chat, brew and to pick up some lobworms and red gentles, the baits were hopefully going to be used to catch some perch later in the week. They were never used as the weather detariated and the wind increased from the North West we chose not to sit out on a wind swept gravel pit, when we could at least get some shelter on the River Kennet. During the day I got a telephone call from my river keeper friend on the Avon to say “Don’t bother to visit the river isn’t really fishable”

Back on the river we chose the same swim, hoping perhaps the fish were still around. The same tackle was used, but this time David starting off on cheese paste, I chose crust. Yesterday I thought David would get his best chance on crust, though I reckon today my best chance would be on that bait, I chose not to use crust yesterday to give David more chance. Today he chose cheese paste, I fished my first choice bait crust. Fifteen minutes after casting out I had a light knock picking up the rod I had a slight pull then set the hook into what felt a good fish. “No chub this” I said, if it is said David “It must be a giant” I have always maintained you can beat a big fish on a soft rod better than on a stiff action rod. I didn’t have any problems and soon David netted a nice fish, at first we thought it might be a scraper double. On the scales it weighed 9lb 10 ounces. (see under pictures) Not a double but a good fish on a cold winter day, I was more than happy, but would have preferred David to have caught it. Apart from a couple of knocks on David’s rod, we didn’t get any more action.

Lost Fish

The next day we had planned to target the perch but no way were we going to sit it out on a very wind swept gravel pit in the strong north westerly wind. It was back on the River Kennet, this time I chose another stretch of water. Fishing various baits I didn’t get a touch, but David fishing a big chunk of crust on a size 4 Pallatrax hook lost a big barbel, after fighting the fish for several minutes the fish powered its way into a snag. As David said I could feel the line grating on a snag then suddenly he had a limp line. The fish had won. I felt gutted for David as he worked so hard.

The next day everything looked good, in fact I said “I reckon we could have a good session today” Several hours fishing with no bites we packed up and headed off for some dinner. With conditions so tough we decided to head off home early the next morning. All the time we were on the river David was asking lots of questions about the effects of water temperatures, baits tackle, creases, seams and dozens of other questions. Though we didn’t catch much, we did get to see several red kites. On the way home he said “Thank you Martin I’ve learnt so much this week that I can put in practise on my local waters” No doubt he will join me again and hopefully I can get him on the Hampshire Avon

Martin James Fishing